Grand Theft Mobile

It's easy to understand the personal benefits of a potential kill switch requirement for cellphones; thieves would have less incentive to swipe your handset if they knew that it would become a brick. However, Creighton University professor William Duckworth has conducted a study suggesting that a remote shutdown feature could also save phone users a lot of money. Based on a 1,200-person survey, he estimates that consumers could avoid spending a total of $2.5 billion per year -- $500 million in buying replacement phones, and $2 billion in insurance that covers theft. The savings would be good news for customers, though not the carriers and insurers that earn revenue from the status quo.

With that said, there are concerns that the study is overly optimistic. Asurion (which is in the phone insurance business) reckons that about 60 percent of missing phones are lost, not stolen; you might want to pay for coverage if you tend to forget phones at the bar. A kill switch also wouldn't completely eliminate theft, since nogoodniks might still want phones for parts. Even if Duckworth is looking at the world through rose-tinted glasses, though, his survey suggests that at least some cellphone owners could hold on to more of their cash.